The teachers union unspooled a petition — which union leaders say rivals the length of a football field — at the school board meeting Tuesday night calling for an end to an “environment of fear, hostility and divisiveness” in San Diego Unified. The petition, signed by more than 5,000 employees, is the same petition presented last week to school board President Shelia Jackson. It is an implicit jab at Superintendent Terry Grier, who union President Camille Zombro criticized for frightening employees with “scare tactics” on budget cuts.

But the big news isn’t just what the petition said, but when it was unrolled. While many school boards might try to downplay or avoid that kind of criticism, Jackson allowed the union to use her time during the meeting, usually reserved for board members’ reports about their activities, to present the petition. And school board member Richard Barrera gave up his time so that union members could speak.

That wasn’t lost on other board members: Katherine Nakamura, a staunch supporter of Grier, complained that it was “sneaking that onto the agenda” and called it “an open act of hostility and completely unnecessary.” The timing was especially sensitive because the superintendent was scheduled to be evaluated in closed session the same day, according to a meeting agenda.

EMILY ALPERT

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